Pruritus in dogs is a chemical reaction in your pet's skin that stimulates their nerves and sends a signal to the brain that tells them to itch. There are several forms of this condition ranging from very mild where there is no problem, to the severe form that can lead to intense itching.
This intense itching will lead to an intense scratching by your dog inflicting severe skin damage that could result in lesions. Pruritus in dogs can be caused by several types of infections, but to fully understand those factors, it helps to understand an itch threshold.
Every dog has what is defined as an itch threshold and there is no single defined number that can be assigned; as each dog will have a different threshold. The best way to explain it is that if your dog has an itch threshold, in other words a number that is assigned in your dogs immune's defense system, and that number is breached, your dog will start to scratch.
Using the example of fleas, your dog may have a threshold of 60. However, the irritation of fleas to your pet's immune system only triggers a response sent to the brain of 45 and as a result, fleas do not cause your pet to itch. However, if you have a second dog and their itch threshold is set at 40 by their immune system, and the same response is sent to the brain at 45, fleas by themselves trigger the itch threshold.
However, with your first dog, they also may be developing a bacterial infection to some type of an allergen. Once it starts to grow, the bacterial infection causes an additional 20 itch units being sent to the brain, and the combined 45 and 20 itch units surpasses their threshold and the brain sends a message back and they start to itch.
Pruritus in dogs may be triggered by a single skin condition or it may take a couple of combined conditions to actually send the signals to the brain that cause them itch. If the combination becomes significant, the itching then develops into scratching that becomes dangerous. This is not just normal itching, this is something that becomes chronic.
There is a difference between itching and scratching in your dog. Every dog will naturally itch themselves a couple of times a day. But scratching is something entirely different. If it becomes persistent and extends past one day, your dog is in discomfort and they can not stop. The brain is sending their nerves the direction to scratch until it measures the threshold back below the trigger point.
The problem is, it won't go back down and the scratching will start to turn the skin red and well as causing hair loss. Both of these can very quickly lead to lesions which can easily become infected and threaten your dogs health.
The other major symptoms will your dog licking their feet chronically. Again, every dog will lick their feet, but it becomes non stop, your dog has contracted Pruritus.
There are several causes of Pruritus but the major causes are allergic reaction or skin parasite infections. With these types of reactions or infections, the scratching by your dog inflames the tissues and makes the situation much worse.
Flea allergies are by far and away the most common cause of Pruritus in dogs as well as the most prevalent skin disease. What a lot of dog owners don't realize is that it only takes one flea on your pet to cause a reaction. A single flea has 15 different types of allergens in their saliva and with all the advances and products on the market; they are still the biggest threat to your pet.
What makes them such a serious threat to your dog is that unlike other allergens where your dog's immune system can react and desensitize against an allergy, it is very uncommon for a dog to become desensitized to fleas. It is estimated that over forty percent of all dogs have some type of a flea infection.
Atopy is the next largest threat and it is a reaction by your pet to airborne pollen. These pollens include molds, house mites, dust, and second hand smoke. The term atopy simply means that this pollen or irritant has been inhaled by your dog. Besides the chewing of the feet and scratching, atopy may also cause your dog to rub their face on the carpet, develop recurrent ear infections, as well as hair loss.
Food allergies account for only about ten percent of the allergies found in dogs, and it is very difficult to distinguish between an actual allergy and intolerance to a food.
There are two types of mange that can cause Pruritus in dogs; Sarcoptic mange, also known as scabies, and Demodectic mange. Scabies is a very serious form of Pruritus and is caused by mites. They can cause a myriad of skin problems, even though they only live for a very short time on your dog.
The good news with scabies is that there are extremely effective treatments in the form of dips that can completely eliminate this infection. Demodectic mange is also caused by mites and primarily affects young dogs and puppies. Dips are also very effective against this form of mange.
The most common forms of treatment for this condition will be with antihistamines, medicated and soothing shampoos, corticosteroids, and fatty acid supplements. Antihistamines are not nearly as effective in dogs as in humans by themselves, but combined with fatty acid supplements they are very effective. The same is true with shampoos when used with supplements.
Corticosteroids are usually used for the most difficult cases but can have severe side effects. Fatty acid supplements have no side effects and help the other forms of treatments. There are two types, Omega-3 fatty acids and Omega-6 fatty acids. The most effective with these conditions will be Omega-3 as it will benefit both the skin and the cells in your dog.
Pruritus in dogs can be mild or it can be very serious, depending on your pets itch threshold. Identify it early and than treating it with Omega-3 fatty acids supplements combined with antihistamines and medicated shampoos can easily help your dog through this itching threat.